IBM's strategy for opening up its high-end computing workhorse revolves around the company's CICS software. CICS, which stands for Customer Information Control System, is IBM's transaction server for developing, running, and managing transaction applications on the mainframe, which is commonly found in financial institutions.
In the previous version of CICS software, IBM introduced the ability to invoke transactions using Web services, XML-based standards that are the foundation of SOAs. CICS also could invoke services on an SOA.
"That proved to be hugely popular to customers," Jim Rhyne, chief architect for IBM's enterprise software platform, said in an interview. "We saw the fastest version-to-version upgrade rate than any other previous version."
In the latest upgrade, CICS for z/OS v3.2, IBM is expanding the server's capabilities by allowing it to process XML documents and their attachments, such as graphics files, that are traveling in a SOAP packet. SOAs use the Web services protocol called SOAP, or Simple Object Access Protocol, for exchanging XML-based messages over computer networks that normally use HTTP.
In addition, IBM has released application programming interfaces that management software, such as IBM Tivoli and Hewlett-Packard OpenView, can integrate with to monitor the state of application components in and outside CICS that are hooked together in an SOA.
IBM also has added tools within CICS that makes it possible to take an existing application within the server and wrap it with a SOAP interface so the application can communicate with other SOA components.
The latest version of CICS is in beta and is scheduled to be generally available in June.